Friday, July 01, 2005

The rump Bolsheviks 

AFT, a teachers union that also represents faculty on some campuses, isn't happy with the joint statement on academic freedom made by numerous higher education organizations (as I discussed here). Inside Higher Ed reports:
AFT leaders say that the statement will invite Congress and legislatures to weigh in on higher education in inappropriate ways. In addition, they worry that the joint statement gave legitimacy to Horowitz, whose views have offended many academics.

Lawrence Gold, director of program and policy development for the AFT, said that if the House of Representatives endorses the associations� statement, as many expect it will, �it will involve the government describing how the academy should protect academic matters,� adding, �we don�t think the government has any business here.�
Of course, there has been no statement from the proponents to get the House's approval; neither would it be anything more than a "sense of the House" resolution.
Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the ACE, said that the statement was not written for Congress or Horowitz. �We have been hearing from college and university presidents that they felt exposed because there was not a statement that they could point to as what they work for,� and this statement provides them with a set of principles to use.

Hartle said that while he wasn�t seeking to have Congress endorse the statement, it was likely that the House of Representatives was going to adopt some resolution this year, and that it was important for lawmakers to have an alternative to the Academic Bill of Rights. �If we have something that we wrote and that is broadly acceptable to the higher education community and something we didn�t write and that we have serious concerns about, I�m going to go with what we wrote,� he said.

As to whether Horowitz gained legitimacy from the associations� statement, Hartle said that Horowitz�s influence in some circles made him a force already, regardless of what one thinks of his ideas. �David Horowitz is already legitimate,� Hartle said. �The notion that some people think he isn�t given great weight and attention by policy makers is just wrong.�

As for Horowitz, he said that the unions should be embracing his efforts, and those of the groups that issued the joint statement last week. In an e-mail interview, he said, �The American Council on Education statement merely recognizes the fact that in the present academic and political climates it is important to reiterate the university community�s commitment to intellectual diversity and pluralism and to nondiscrimination against anyone in the academy � student or professor, left or right.�
The Christian Science Monitor's lead editorial this morning supports the statement. And Horowitz responds with this point on the AFT's view of laissez faire:
The AFT's stated objections to the statement by the American Council on Education that this would invite government intrusion into academic affairs doesn't pass the smell test. When has the AFT objected to government guidelines on sexual harassment or racial diversity on college campuses? Why then object to a resolution on intellectual diversity, which is fundamental principle of American society?